You’d be hard pressed to meet a nicer guy than Josh Niland. At just 30 years old, with three kids, two businesses, a slew of awards and global respect, Niland is on a fast-train to becoming one of Australia’s best known and most-respected chefs. You would not know it to talk to him.
His background is coloured with stories of the people that helped him: time in Peter Doyle’s kitchen, learning the refinement and order of a fine dining restaurant; on the pass with Steve Hodges gathering a tangle of ideas that Niland collected over many services “to decipher later”; and months in the development kitchen in the Fat Duck, where Heston Blumenthal taught him the importance of surrounding yourself with the smartest people. His tapestry is rich with knowledge garnered from others – it is a part of the tale he is anxious to share.
Even his run-in with cancer, diagnosed a couple of days after his eighth birthday, is recounted with pause to reflect on the positives. It was the days spent recovering from the radiotherapy and chemotherapy accompanied by the tv, Niland explains, and a gaggle of mononymous tv chefs - Jamie, Curtis, Hughie – that gave him his first taste of the joy that food can bring. There is a resilience, fortitude and an unmistakable gratitude in his spirit.
“I started cooking for Mum and Dad,” recounts Niland, “and seeing how they felt after eating it, seeing their response, that was what I started to crave.” Indeed, that vicarious pleasure is part of the reason Saint Peter, his small 34-seater restaurant in Sydney’s Paddington, has such an open kitchen. Seeing people enjoying the food is part of what makes Niland tick.
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